So alongside The Black List is The International Watch List, which just came out with its 2008 roster. It’s an unofficial list of the American film industry’s favorite foreign feature and short films from the past year according to the judgment of over 50 US film executives and their assistants were asked to vote for up to five foreign feature films and five foreign short films. The International Watch List includes all the features and shorts that received two or more votes. Considered were foreign features and foreign shorts released in theaters internationally or shown at an international film festival in 2008, and directed by a foreign filmmaker. The stated aim of The International Watch List is “to highlight new filmmaking talent from abroad, to inspire creativity and spread the word about the international favorites of the year”:
The International Watch List 2008
LET THE RIGHT ONE IN
by Tomas Alfredson
(Cinetic Media/Christina Bazdekis)
Oskar, a fragile 12-year-old boy, is regularly bullied by his stronger classmates but never strikes back. The lonely boy’s wish for a friend seems to come true when he meets Eli, also 12, who moves in next door to him with her father. A pale, serious young girl, she only comes out at night and doesn’t seem affected by the freezing temperatures.
by Pascal Laugier
(ICM/Nathan Ross & Robert Lazar)
Young Lucie is found half-naked, filthy, starving and nearly catatonic, unable to describe the horrors she has endured. Hospitalized, she learns to function once again with the help of Anna, another young victim of terrible abuse. The girls quickly develop a strong bond, and though they try to protect each other, Lucie continues to be haunted by the specter of her violent past. Fifteen years later, with the help of Anna, Lucie sets out to wreak vengeance on the family she suspects of being the sadists responsible for her torture. Lucie’s violent acts set into motion a downward spiral of pain and despair for the two heroines.
BEFORE THE FALL
by F. Javier Gutiérrez
Life as we know it ends in three days. The leaders of the world have just announced that a comet is hurtling toward Earth. No one can stop it, and the object is so immense that there is no hope for any of us to survive. Unfolding against this terrifying backdrop is the story of a small family in a Spanish village, a simple group with a troubled history. A disturbed man from their past wants nothing more than to bring misery to the family, targeting the smallest, most vulnerable members of this clan. When he is released from prison—the impending global catastrophe has unleashed all kinds of chaos—the terror deepens. The world’s ending in three days? That may not seem like soon enough for one family.
by Matteo Garrone
(ICM/Jeff Berg & Nathan Ross)
Power, money and blood: these are the “values” that the residents of the province of Naples and Caserta confront every day. They have practically no choice, and are forced to obey the rules of the “System,” the Camorra. Only a lucky few can even think of leading a “normal” life. Five stories are woven together in this violent scenario, set in a cruel and ostensibly invented world, but one that is deeply rooted in reality.
A serial killer is preying on call-girls from various escort agencies. In the midst of police indifference and incompetence, Jung-Ho, an ex-cop-turned-pimp must dust off his old flatfoot skills to find the killer and save the life of one of his girls who has gone missing.
WALTZ WITH BASHIR
by Ari Folman
One night at a bar, an old friend tells director Ari about a recurring nightmare in which he is chased by 26 vicious dogs. Every night, the same number of beasts. The two men conclude that there’s a connection to their Israeli Army mission in the first Lebanon War of the early eighties. Ari is surprised that he can’t remember a thing anymore about that period of his life. Intrigued by this riddle, he decides to meet and interview old friends and comrades around the world. He needs to discover the truth about that time and about himself. As Ari delves deeper and deeper into the mystery, his memory begins to creep up in surreal images.
by Mabrouk El Mechri
Jean-Claude Van Damme portrays a washed-up, aging action star. His career is a joke, he loses all of even the meager straight-to-video roles to his nemesis Stephen Segal and he’s in a custody battle for his daughter who is too embarrassed of her father to consider living with him. Returning to Brussels, he pops into a post office to send a money order to his divorce lawyer in Los Angeles only to find the facility held siege by robbers. The absurdity of the situation gradually escalates, and our action hero star must decide – cooperate or save the day in true hero fashion!
by Nash Edgerton
Escaping the monotony of a loveless marriage, Raymond Yale becomes entangled in an affair with the beautiful and troubled Carla. Ray’s moral limits are tested when Carla presents him with the proceeds of her husband’s latest crime. Take the money and run…If only it were that simple. The seed is planted and Ray, fearing he will lose his love, engineers the plan. Hiring the professional arsonist Billy becomes a fatal error, and the plan goes horribly wrong. Alarm bells sound and suspicions are raised but miraculously, the dust looks to settle. After all… Nobody knows. Then the first blackmail note arrives. The couple’s nerves are tested as both Carla’s husband and the mystery author threaten to throw open their secret… With the blackmailer’s deadline approaching they are going to find out just how far they are willing to go for love.
by Steve McQueen
Maze Prison in Northern Ireland, 1981. The infamous H-Blocks is where Irish republican prisoners are on the Blanket and No-Wash protest. It is a living hell for both prisoner and prison officer as the H-Block leader, Bobby Sands, pursues various tactics to help his fellow republicans re-establish their political status. In order to create real change, Bobby leads a Hunger Strike to protest for special category status for republican prisoners.
by Ralph Ziman
Cutting his teeth on carjacking, young Lucky Kunene dreams of bigger scores with loose-cannon chum Zakes. Moving to the rough-and-tumble Hillbrow section of South Africa’s largest metropolis, Kunene, whose heroes are Karl Marx, Al Capone and Dale Carnegie, transforms himself into a real-estate crime boss, even as he tries to elude determined white cop Blakkie Swart, vengeful renegade Nazareth Mbolelo and Nigerian drug lord Tony Ngu.
by Lance Daly
(AP Watt Ltd/Rob Kraitt)
Growing up next door to each other on a rough estate, 13-year-old Dylan and 11-year-old Kylie have always been close, bonding over the harsh treatment dished out by their respective families. After narrowly escaping his father’s fists one day, Dylan and Kylie hop on a canal barge and sail into the city centre, swearing that they’ll never return home again. Wandering about the city, the kids encounter various thrills and dangers as they attempt to survive just one night on the cruel Dublin streets.
by Laurent Cantet
Francois Marin, a handsome, charismatic thirty-something teacher whose playful, bristling approach — marked by sardonic humor, a Socratic interrogation method and sometimes feigned, sometimes genuine exasperation — seems an appropriate way of dealing with his often unruly and inattentive students. While the class has its share of diligent, well-behaved pupils like Asian immigrant Wei, who speaks assuredly despite his less-than-perfect French, it’s the troublemakers who leave the most vivid impression.
THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE WEIRD
by Jee-Woon Kim
In a lawless Manchurian desert during the tumultuous thirties, three Korean men meet on a train. Do-won the Good, is an infamous bounty hunter with a deadly shot. Chang-yi is the Bad, a merciless gang leader with a colossal ego. Tae-goo, the Weird, is a gifted but unpredictable train robber who favors his motor scooter over horseback. Along with the Japanese army and hordes of bandits grappling for control of this desert territory, the Good, the Bad and the Weird face off in every possible combination. They seize and cede power in quick succession, all the while trying to exploit a mysterious map that promises huge riches.
by Alex Rivera
Memo Cruz is a young peasant who lives with his parents in the small, dusty village of Santa Ana del Rio in Oaxaca. Memo loves technology, and dreams of leaving his village to find work in the hi-tech factories in the big cities of the north. Using his home-made radio, he unwittingly stumbles upon some communications, arousing suspicion. His house is destroyed by a remote-controlled bombing and he has to flee. On the way to Tijuana, Memo meets Luz, a journalist disposed to change the world, and together they try to establish a relationship beyond the technology.
by Henrik Ruben Genz
Robert has a number of skeletons in his cupboard, which he is determined to bury. Although hardly his dream job, Robert sees the position of temporary village constable as a necessary stage on the road to rehabilitation. He just needs to do well and generally behave by the book. However, village life and the macabre provincial order turn out to be difficult to fit into Robert’s plans. Nothing is ever straightforward, and certainly not when you are way out in the countryside.
THE SONG OF SPARROWS
by Majid Majidi
When Karim, an ostrich wrangler, at a ranch in a rural Tehran, travels to the city to replace his eldest daughter’s broken hearing aid, he’s mistaken for a motorcycle taxi driver and begins to transport businessmen through the heavy traffic. The passengers and places he encounters start to transform his generous, honest nature, much to the distress of his wife. After Karim suffers an accident that leaves him unable to work, his sense of faith and purpose is ultimately restored.
by Javor Gardev
Moth is freed on parole after spending time in prison on wrongful conviction of murder. Jailed shortly before the Bulgarian communist coup of 1944, he now finds himself in a new and alien world – the totalitarian Sofia of the 60s. His first night of freedom draws the map of a diabolical city full of decaying neighborhoods, gloomy streets and a bizarre parade of characters.
by Fabio Guaglione & Fabio Resinaro
(The Safran Company/Peter Safran)
2058. 50 years ago, a number of unknown structures fell upon our world, changing the skyline of the major cities of the planet. These starships, soon renamed as ―The Rocks‖, never showed any sign of life and were soon integrated as part of the urban growth accompanying the world’s social and economical development. Years later, scientists would make an incredible discovery: the rocks seemed to originate a signal from their interior. According to our time criteria this signal was codified as a countdown pointing at a specific day and time in the year 2058. Today, we live the last hours of that ―Last Day‖ through the eyes of two lovers, Sam and Lisa, desperately looking for each other again before the world that we know might end.
OF CATS AND WOMEN
by Jonas Govaerts
(The Safran Company/Tom Drumm)
A woman is consumed by jealousy. To get back at her ex-lover and his new girlfriend, she kidnaps their cat.
by Jason Eisener
Clearly, for trees, Christmas isn’t the exciting ―peace on earth‖ that is experienced by most. After being hacked down, and shipped away from their homes, they quickly become strung up, screwed into an upright position for all to see, exposed in a humiliation of garish decorations. But this Christmas will be different, this Christmas the trees have had enough, this Christmas the trees will fight back.
I LOVE SARAH JANE
by Spencer Susser
Jimbo is 13. All he can think about is one girl, Sarah Jane. And no matter what stands in his way – bullies, violence, chaos, zombies – nothing is going to stop him from finding a way into her world.
THE RAIN HORSE
by Sebastian Godwin
(Independent Talent Group/Jessica Sykes)
A tense stand-off between a man and a horse.
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